It’s that time again! The greatest show on earth is upon us. Ahead of the Fifa World Cup in Russia, we look-back at the 20 tournaments before and the standout aspects from them.

Next in line, the last World Cup before the world got engulfed in the big war...

France 1938

A World Cup marred by conflict – not just around the world, but even in the footballing community.

With the world on the brink of war, France hosted the 1938 World Cup marked by the absence of Austria, under German occupation, and Spain, preoccupied with civil war. England were in conflict with Fifa, and South America, peeved at not being chosen as host after Italy 1934, sent only one representative, Brazil. Uruguay and Argentina both refused to play, taking the sheen off the tournament. And during the tournament, a cloud of anti-fascist protests against Italy and Germany was ever-present.

Asia was represented for the first time, by Indonesia, playing as the Dutch East Indies, though were quickly on their way home after losing 6-0 to Hungary in the first round.

In the semis, the Hungarians demolished Sweden 5-1, despite conceding a goal after only 30 seconds.

Having edged Brazil 2-1 in the semis, Italy lifted the trophy for the second tournament in succession, defeating Hungary 4-2 in the final at Colombes, just outside Paris.

The Azzuri became the first team to defend the World Cup title, led by coach Vittorio Pozzo for the second tournament running.

The tournament will also be remembered forever for the ‘Rubber Man’ Leonidas, the Brazilian forward who scored seven goals, including three in a 6-5 win over Poland – till date one of the most exciting games in World Cup history.

In one of the most interesting World Cup incidents. Italian legend (and captain) Giuseppe Meazza’s shorts fell down as he stepped up to take a spot kick against Brazil in the semi-final. The legend goes that Meazza picked up the shorts in one hand and coolly slotted the ball past the Brazilian goalkeeper who was unable to control his laughter.

Stats and Trivia

  • ZERO: Number of clean sheets kept by Italy on their way to the title – the only World Cup-winning side to do achieve the feat. Gli Azzurri beat Norway 2-1, France 3-1, Brazil 2-1, and Hungary 4-2.
  • The Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, were Asia’s first World Cup team, fielding a side that consisted of both Dutch and native Indonesian players.
  • Seven: Consecutive wins for Italy starting with the 1934 World Cup quarter-final, the second most in tournament history. Bettered only by Brazil’s 11 World Cup wins on the trot, that was achieved six decades later.
  • Italy created history by defending their World Cup title. Only other team till date has won back-to-back World Cup titles – Brazil in 1958 and 62.
  • FOUR: Number of goals scored by Poland’s Ernest Wilimowski, the first player to do so in World Cup history. Unfortunately for him, it came in a losing cause against a Leonidas-inspired Brazil in a 6-5 thriller.
  • For the first ever time, numbers were on used on the jerseys in World Cup – in the final between Italy and Hungary.
  • For the first time, the holders and hosts were granted automatic qualification to the tournament finals. A practice that stood till 2002, after which only the hosts were guaranteed qualification.
  • Tournament top-scorer: Leonidas (Brazil) – 7 goals
  • Total number of goals scored in the tournament:  84 (4.7 goals per match)

For your viewing pleasure

Italy vs Hungary, the final


Official poster

With AFP and inputs